Research ArticleBIOMIMETICS

Bioinspired wing and tail morphing extends drone flight capabilities

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Science Robotics  28 Oct 2020:
Vol. 5, Issue 47, eabc2897
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.abc2897

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Abstract

The aerodynamic designs of winged drones are optimized for specific flight regimes. Large lifting surfaces provide maneuverability and agility but result in larger power consumption, and thus lower range, when flying fast compared with small lifting surfaces. Birds like the northern goshawk meet these opposing aerodynamic requirements of aggressive flight in dense forests and fast cruising in the open terrain by adapting wing and tail areas. Here, we show that this morphing strategy and the synergy of the two morphing surfaces can notably improve the agility, maneuverability, stability, flight speed range, and required power of a drone in different flight regimes by means of an avian-inspired drone. We characterize the drone’s flight capabilities for different morphing configurations in wind tunnel tests, optimization studies, and outdoor flight tests. These results shed light on the avian use of wings and tails and offer an alternative design principle for drones with adaptive flight capabilities.

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